They could welcome back All Blacks Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and even Dan Carter, but just as important for the Crusaders will be their attitude against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

Their 22-23 defeat to the Hurricanes last weekend in Christchurch, their first loss at their new AMI Stadium home, has threatened to derail their season. Now they, along with the Hurricanes, Reds and Sharks, are fighting for the final two wild card spots.

With the Chiefs, Stormers and Brumbies on top of their respective conferences and the Bulls fourth with 54 points, the Crusaders, fifth on 52 points, could be forgiven a few nerves as the other three, all on 49, snap at their heels.

Todd Blackadder's men will seal their place in the top six if they beat the Chiefs and then the Force in Christchurch the weekend after. A slip-up will place their destiny in other hands and their task against the Chiefs is a tough one.


The required desperation was absent against the Hurricanes, although they were unlucky that referee Bryce Lawrence awarded Conrad Smith's first try despite the obvious obstruction by teammate Julian Savea. That said, a lack of motivation won't be a problem at Waikato Stadium against a team who, while made to work for their 27-21 victory over the Highlanders, will possess plenty of self-belief.

"We know the characters in our team; the men we've got are the right men," said halfback Andy Ellis. "We've just got to do the business and get our attitude right. I think now, with our backs against the wall, we will get the best out of the boys. We've just worked too hard not to."

The Crusaders missed the ball carrying and defensive steel of Read, in particular, last weekend, but Blackadder is hopeful his No8 will have recovered from the concussion which has kept him out since the All Blacks' second test win over Ireland. Dagg is considered a good chance to be back from his ankle sprain and Ellis said even Carter, who has a hamstring problem, could be available.